So you’re thinking of buying a drone and using it to take holiday videos or just fly it around for fun. Maybe you’ve considered the possibility of making a little money by becoming a professional drone operator. In either case, you’ve most likely also heard a lot about how the government wants their pound of flesh in the form of licensing.
Unfortunately, there’s plenty of misinformation too. So let’s try to make things as clear as possible. With the caveat that the laws and regulations are still in flux. Which means that by the time you read this, things might have changed!
Registering Your Drone Versus Drone Pilot Certification
The first thing you need to understand is that, right now, there is no such thing as a drone “license” and that word is being used in an unofficial way. So there’s nothing analogous to a car or a pilot’s license when it comes to drones. At least not yet.
Instead, most people will need to register their drones with the FAA. So the FAA knows who has which drones and all the details about you and the craft. The registration says nothing about your ability to fly your drone. Instead, it means you are aware of an accept the FAA regulations. Including what it says about liabilities and fines.
Drone Pilot Certification is the closest thing to a drone license at the moment. It involved writing a test. One for which you have to study. While the registration has a nominal cost, certification is relatively expensive. So who needs what document?
Who Needs to Register Their Drones?
Anyone with a drone that weighs more than 0.55 pounds needs to register it with the FAA if they want to fly it outside. You can go ahead and do that right here. Smaller drones, such as the tiny “nano” class of drone that fits in the palm of your hand. A type of drone, incidentally, that’s perfect for no-risk practice!
Who Needs Drone Pilot Certification?
If you want to fly your drone for money, you still need to register it. In addition, you also need to get certified as a pilot. You’ll have to learn a set amount of theory, book and pay for a test and then pass it. It’s not a given that you will pass either. The general consensus is that if you don’t study properly, you won’t pass. Which is why plenty of drone pilot school programs have popped up all over the place.
Be aware that there are some requirements to get this certification. You need to be 16 years old at least. You also have to be of sound mind and be physically healthy. So people with a heart condition or epilepsy may not pass the physical.
How Do I Get My Drone License?
To actually get the drone certification you need to study the Part 107 regulations and also know the FAA rules for a pilot in general related to radio operations, airspace requirements and so on. There’s a lot to learn, so you’re better off getting the official list of required knowledge areas from the FAA itself.
You need to study for two to three weeks on average. Less if you have the help of a professional school. When you are ready, go ahead and book a test at one of these knowledge centers.
Additional Things to Consider
Now you should know who needs to get what paperwork and how to get it. However, keep in mind that there might be specific local laws about drones that you must also abide by. While states and smaller government authorities may not override federal regulations, they can add to it. It’s up to you to make sure you’re familiar with it all!